Best hiking boots 2022: sturdy boots to tackle any track or trail

We walk you through the best hiking boots around, to provide comfort, protection and support on your adventures

Included in this guide:

best hiking boots 2021: person standing on a rocky mountain
(Image credit: Ali Kazal on Unsplash)

It’s certainly arguable that a well-chosen pair of best hiking boots are your most important outdoor equipment purchase. A good pair that fit well and suit your route terrain perfectly will make the toughest ascent and rockiest escapades seem perfectly serene... while poorly fitting and inappropriate footwear is not only uncomfortable, but can be downright dangerous. This guide is all about helping you thread a path through the hundreds of walking boots on the market, arriving at the very best hiking boots for you, whatever your budget or the types of trails you're planning on tackling. (For female-specific options, head to our best women's hiking boot guide instead).

As you’ll probably know already, hiking boots offer much more protection than hiking or walking shoes, especially in terms of ankle support. While for walking the dog, a pair of the best men's walking shoes or best women's walking shoes will do just fine (or perhaps some of the best wellies, on wet days), for anything more strenuous, only hiking boots will do.

So what to look for in a pair of hiking boots? Outsoles should be grippy, with good sized lugs to handle varied terrain, from scree to wet grass. The midsole unit should be stiffer than you'd find on a shoe too, depending on the grade of the boot, and the uppers are usually more robust than a lightweight hiking shoe. 

Fit is the most important factor though, especially where your personal comfort is concerned, and that’s all down to how the manufacturers 'last' marries up with your personal foot shape. Some makes and styles will immediately feel ‘right’, and others (usually the ones with a hefty sale discount) simply won’t ever fit your feet. Test new boots as much as you can bear around the house or in the shop before wearing them outside to break in your hiking boots – you’ll not regret the time spent here, benefiting from avoiding blisters and fewer hotspots down the road. All clear? Now read on for our review of the best hiking boots right now. 

The best hiking boots 2022 reviewed

Jack Wolfskin Wilderness Lite Texapore Mid-height hiking boot in blue-grey with black detailsT3 Award Winner sponsored by Wiggle

(Image credit: Jack Wolfskin)

The best hiking boots for most people

Upper: synthetic textile
Outsole: Vibram
Waterproofing: Texapore O2+
Reasons to buy
+Rugged and robust+Vibram soles deliver excellent grip+Breathable upper
Reasons to avoid
-Too chunky for light summer strolls-Slightly narrow fit

Designed with intrepid mountain hikers in mind, the Jack Wolfskin Wilderness Lite is our pick for the best hiking boot right now. A technical boot that's not stiff, heavy or bulky, these will cope comfortably with whatever you throw at them. Seriously grippy Vibram soles will keep you sure-footed even on tricky terrain, they're fully waterproof with Texapore technology, and a tough toe box and a high cut around the ankle provide further protection on uneven trails. They're comfy straight out of the box, too. While they're reasonably breathable and won't weigh you down on an all-day trek, we think the 'Lite' moniker is a bit of a stretch – there are lighter boots in our ranking if that's your priority. We were so impressed in our tests that we gave these a 2021 T3 Award for best hiking boot. Head to our full Jack Wolfskin Wilderness Lite Texapore Mid review for more info.

Scarpa Manta Tech GTX mountaineering boots

(Image credit: Scarpa )

2. Scarpa Manta Tech GTX

The best hiking boot for all-seasons hillwalking

Upper : Perwanger Suede leather
Outsole: Vibram Mont
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex liner
Reasons to buy
+ Field-proven over decades + All-season boots + Super protection
Reasons to avoid
- Heavier than some 

 A true mountain classic in one form or another, the Scarpa Manta has stomped about pretty much every inch of terrain from the Rockies to the Alps, Scotland to the Lakes, and everywhere in between. Stiff enough for proper crampons, but still comfortable enough for long days on the trail, it's a true workhorse that’ll do anything, anywhere. The newest version, the Tech GTX, offers relative lightness (1740 per pair) but professional levels of protection for your feet thanks to a 3mm Perwanger Suede leather upper and a substantial rand that combines rubber and PU. 

The exceedingly robust outsole is Vibram Mont rubber, a compound designed for longevity and good traction in low temperatures, and of course there’s a Gore-tex liner to keep everything as dry and breathable as possible. Overall, it’s a compelling all-year-round package with a real winter-adventure edge that’s been proven over the last few decades-odd.

Hanwag Ferrata 2 hiking boots

(Image credit: Hanwag)

3. Hanwag Ferrata II

The best light-yet-sturdy boots for serious mountains

Upper material: Synthetic, Microfiber
Sole type: Hanwag TubeTec Rock
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+ Full mountain protection + Light but strong + Lots of support 
Reasons to avoid
- Overkill for low-level rambles 

If you’re headed into steeper terrain, it’s wise to choose a stiffer, more robust boot than you might wear on the fells and trails. The Hanwag Ferrata II offers serious tools for the job, coming in at a ‘C’ rating, being stiff enough to take a hybrid or semi-automatic crampon. That also means the sole unit offers top-grade protection from anything you might encounter in the mountains, giving you a solid platform you can trust. Often mountain boots are clunky beasts, but the genius of the Hanwag Ferrata II is that it weighs in at 720 grams per boot – a trainer-like lightness that you’ll appreciate on longer days. That lightness and precision also allows you to pick your path as accurately as you need to; handy on complex, rocky ground. A Gore-Tex liner will keep the worst of the damp out, and the cuff is designed for support as well as movement; the best of both worlds. 

Inov-8 ROCFLY G390 men's hiking boots

(Image credit: Inov-8)

4. Inov-8 ROCFLY G390

The best fast and light hiking boots

Upper material: textile
Sole type: Graphene Grip
Waterproof technology: none
Reasons to buy
+ Incredibly grippy +New Graphene foam+Super fast-and-light
Reasons to avoid
-No waterproofing

The Inov-8 ROCFLY G390 is a new hiking boot for AW21 from UK-based Inov-8, and features the company’s acclaimed Graphene-Grip outsole. The Graphene isn’t just technology for the sake of it, adding durability and strength to a very grippy sole compound (Inov-8 claims a 50% improvement on strength and wear). Inov-8 has rigged the deck in their favour by adding 35 multi-directional 4mm deep lugs to the sole too, their distribution specifically designed to prevent debris from gumming them up.

The midsole also features Graphene, this time in the shape of G-Fly foam, it’s presence being a first for hiking boots. Offering enhanced energy return for a fresher feel after a long day, the wonder-material means that the foam can be softer to begin with, and will resist wear, lasting longer. Finally, a knitted upper conforms to the foot, allowing the foot to swell over longer distances without requiring adjustment, as well as offering excellent breathability. Indeed, there’s no waterproof membrane here, so you’re relying on water getting in, but also getting out easily. 

Coming in at a stupidly lightweight 390g, the Inov-8 ROCFLY G390 has already been used to break distance and speed records, namely James Forrest’s new record time for a solo and self-supported hike of Great Britain’s National Three Peaks. They’re certain to feature in similar fast-and-light adventures over the coming months too – maybe on your own feet? 

Inov8 Roclite G 345 GTX Men's hiking boot in teal blue with fluoro yellow details

(Image credit: Inov8)

The best fast and light hiking boots

Upper material: Cordura mesh, textile
Sole type: Graphene Grip
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly grippy+Long life Graphene+Very lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most ankle support-Can be a bit cold

If it's fast-and-light you're after, the Roclite G 345 GTX might be some of the best hiking boots for men right now.We're partial to a bit of tech at T3, and trail experts Inov-8 have an award-winning trick up their sleeve (or sock): a Graphene-infused sole unit. The wonder-material adds strength, hardness and elasticity, resulting in up to 50% better wear – especially relevant for these deep 6mm lugs. It's not all marketing talk either, with these gracing the feet of athletes taking on some of the toughest outdoor challenges around, such as the UK's ultra-marathon Spine Race.

Designed for fast hiking, the grip is certainly phenomenal on wet rock and muddy grass alike, a fact aided by the highly flexible but shanked midsole. Weight is minimal, leaning into that trail running heritage, at 345g (size 8.5), you'll barely notice these on your feet – certainly until the miles really stack up. The bellows-style tongue is another trail-essential, keeping small stones and dust out of your boots, as is the low heel, allowing a full range of movement while providing more support than a standard shoe with the extra front lacing. 

Elsewhere the Gore-Tex liner should keep damp at bay, while a Powerflow midsole delivers a claimed 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles. This fast-and-light hiker is guaranteed to keep you right-side up and dry on the longest days out. Head to our Inov-8 Roclite G 345 GTX review for more info.

Arcteryx Acrux TR GTX boot, all black

(Image credit: Arcteryx )

A mountain-ready and deceptively minimalist design for keen hikers

Upper material: SuperFabric
Sole type: Vibram Megagrip
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Abrasion resistant+Mountain-ready
Reasons to avoid
-Prioritises precision over protection

Slimline, minimalist but practical is what we have some to expect from the Canadian outdoor brand Arcteryx, and the Acrux TR GTX is another good example, and well worth a spot in our best men's hiking boots ranking. A high rubber rand protects much of the upper from sharp rocks and abrasion, bending into a 'SuperFabric' upper – the latter employing unique micro-plated technology to remain lightweight but robust.

An almost-obligatory Gore-Tex liner will keep damp at bay, and overall weight is low for a mountain boot, at a claimed 550g (heavier than the Inov8 Rocklite, but lighter than the Hanwag Banks), leaving more spring in your step at the end of a long day. Underfoot the Vibram Megagrip outsole and aggressive lugs will deliver non-slip traction on rock, mud or scree alike, while the low heel will give plenty of flex in the ankle for moving through rugged terrain. Overall there's little to dislike here, and much to commend in an all-round trekking/hiking boot for most occasions. 

For more info, head to our Arcteryx Acrux TR GTX boot review – or see how they compare to our #1 rated boot in our Inov-8 Roclite vs Arcteryx Acrux Tr hiking boots face-off.

La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX

(Image credit: La Sportiva )

7. La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX

This is the best hiking boot for winter mountains

Upper: Idro-Perwanger Roughout Leather
Outsole: Vibram Matterhorn
Waterproofing : Gore-Tex liner
Reasons to buy
+ Impeccable stiffness and comfort + Ultimate foot-protection + Only boot you’ll ever need?
Reasons to avoid
- Overkill for summer rambles 

 If you’re considering more daring hill-related winter exploits, but don’t want to be weighed down unnecessarily, the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX is the latest iteration of La Sportiva’s reference mountain boot. Comfortable enough for hiking as long and as far as you wish, but stiff enough for literally any mountain scenario you might encounter, the Nepal Cube GTX can take on anything from peak-bagging winter Munros to alpine glaciers in the summer months. 

The La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX is based on the revered Nepal Evo, a boot design that has graced the feet of most mountain-botherers over the last few decades, but adds a few updates. Most notably weight is down a significant 100grams per boot, thanks to a super-technical carbon honeycomb insole, which also improves warmth and is lower profile than the old Evos. Elsewhere, the 3D Flex System increases walking comfort, while still providing masses of ankle support, the Vibram sole and Impact Brake System grips and absorbs unwanted impacts, and the Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort lining keeps warm in and water out. Arguably the ultimate all-year, all terrain hiking/mountain boot on the market. 

Haglofs Duality AT1

(Image credit: Haglofs)

8. Haglofs Duality AT1

Two-for-one goodness with environmental chops to boot

Upper: Fluorocarbon free water repellent 1.4 -1.6 mm nubuck
Outsole: WET GRIP Rubber
Waterproofing: GORE-TEX Extended Comfort
Reasons to buy
+ Two boots in one + Comfortable and top quality + Good environmental credentials 
Reasons to avoid
- Too lightweight for winter 

 On the face of it, the Haglofs Duality AT1 look like many other high-quality lightweight walking boots on the market, but they conceal an ingenious and unusual secret. The name is a big hint, but the reality is still pretty innovative: the Haglofs Duality AT1 come with two different midsoles for different walking scenarios. There’s a green pair of soles that provide robust support for more arduous scenarios and heavier loads, while a more relaxed red pair are lighter and softer for more casual moments. While the suggestion that you might want to swap midsoles mid-hike might be taking things a bit far, there’s a lot to be said for the concept, especially for occasions such as a walking holiday, where a lighter grade midsole might be very handy for rest days around town and the like.

Elsewhere there’s plenty of evidence of Haglofs' usual attention to detail, with a high-end Gore-Tex membrane, part-knitted upper, part fluorocarbon-free nubuck. Those midsoles are fabricated from algae-based Bloom Foam, and the webbing and laces are made from 100% recycled polyester. Innovation, everywhere. 

Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX hiking boot in blue with pink and orange details and chunky, extended sole

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

The best walking boots for speed

Upper material: Ripstop textile
Sole type: Vibram Megagrip
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+Fast rocker soles+Enormous heel for energy return+Light
Reasons to avoid
-Looks aren't for everyone-Lack of precision on rockier terrain

The Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX are set up for trail speed, armed with a long pedigree of fast and light trail tools that have won epic endurance races round the world. The obvious feature – that jutting 'Hubble geometry' heel provides masses of energy retention, while an endlessly deep sole unit soaks up everything the trail can throw at you. The physics are in your favour too, with an enormous contact area via the Vibram Megagrip sole and chunky 5mm lugs, there's very little chance of parting company with the earth in these monsters. 

Weighing in at a mere 504g, an inner Gore-tex lining keeps toes dry, and recycled materials in the upper go some way to salving your sustainability concerns. On the downside, RRP is relatively forceful for a dedicated speed-walking boot, and Hoka OneOne's own instructions warn not to 'operate vehicles' or 'navigate stairs' while wearing the boots – so Crib Goch is right out. And the design and colourways isn't Overall, the Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX are innovative, eye-catching, and deliver an enormously plush ride as promised. No all-rounder, but as a dedicated fast-tracker, these are perfect. 

Head to our Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX review to find out more, or check out our Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX vs Columbia Facet 45 article to see how these two unusual looking designs compare.


(Image credit: Keen)

10. Keen NXIS EVO WP Mid

The best casual hiking boots

Upper material: Mesh upper with TPU overlays
Sole type: Rubber Keen all-terrain
Waterproof technology: Keen Dry
Reasons to buy
+ Lightweight + Broad-foot fit + Good heel control 
Reasons to avoid
- Less technical than others 

 Keen’s new lightweight hiking boot ticks a lot of the boxes, offering plenty of comfort straight out of the box, good grip and an excellent heel control system. With Keen’s own-brand waterproof membrane keeping the weather out, solid toe protection and 4mm multi-directional lugs for traction, there’s lots to keep you safe and warm on a long day out in the hills. 

A stability shank might not be stiff enough for higher-level adventures, but it’s enough for casual rambles in comfort - a featherweight 332 grams per shoe certainly won’t tire you unnecessarily. Keen’s signature wide toe box is also all present and correct, ensuring that the wide-of-forefoot don’t get cramps or hotspots. Breathability should be pretty decent thanks to the mesh upper, and there’s an environmental nod in the PFC-free water repellent to boot. 

Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore hiking boots with red detail

(Image credit: Jack Wolfskin)

Super-protective mile-munchers for all round comfort

Upper material: Textile
Sole type: Vibram Megagrip
Waterproof technology: Texapore o2
Reasons to buy
+Very protective +Plenty of traction+Stable platform
Reasons to avoid
-Might be a bit warm in summer

 The Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore boot is not a shy and retiring boot, it’s chunky in most dimensions and radiates the kind of knockabout robustness you’d hope for in a hiking companion. There’s a few factors mixed into that impression - the high ankle and substantial padding offer serious support for tiring legs, while the forefoot ‘force plate’ hidden in the sole unit adds stiffness and protection all in one. This makes a relatively lightweight boot seem much more substantial - an ingenious trick. That said, the mesh and fabric upper does a great job of shedding weight while keeping things breathable, as does the Texapore o2 membrane. 

Running through the boot is a solid seam of quality components too, which add little by little to a good overall impression - the alloy lace hooks for example - and of course the all-important sole unit. That’s moulded from Vibram Megagrip, offering fierce grip on uneven and rocky terrain. Overall, the  Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore boot has lots to say for itself, and not much to complain about - a worthy competitor. Read our full Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore hiking boot review for more details.

Keen Ridge Flex WP hiking boots

(Image credit: Keen )

Old school looks; new school comfort

Upper material: Leather and performance mesh
Sole type: Keen All-Terrain rubber
Waterproof technology: Keen.Dry
Reasons to buy
+Designed for comfort+Robust build+PFC-free waterproofing
Reasons to avoid
-Traditional styling

New for 2021, the Keen Ridge Flex WP has the makings of a bit of a classic, combining the elements of several recognisable Keen boots into one, along with some new technology to boot. There’s the mid-ankle support and robust padding of the Keen Targhee on show here, as well as a proprietary waterproof membrane and similarly in-house sole unit. Environmentally preferred leather panels make up a sizable percentage of the upper, adding plenty of foot protection and durability to the upper. 

The new technology element is the Keen bellows system, which Keen claims reduces the amount of energy required to flex the sole on each step by 60%. The bellows section sits just above the toe box, allowing the upper to flex seamlessly, and also avoiding the age-related cracking and damage that can occur in this high-use area. This also means less requirement to wear the boots in - the flex is already built in - making for a more comfortable boot even when box-fresh. It’s an ingenious concept, and adds quite a few benefits to an otherwise stolid and robust boot - well worth considering for lower-level treks and longer day hikes. Head to our Keen Ridge Flex WP hiking boot review to find out more.

Berghaus Hillwalker Trek hiking boot

(Image credit: Berghaus)

13. Berghaus Hillwalker Trek Goretex

Excellent lightweight trekker for the lowlands

Upper material: Textile, suede
Sole type: Opti-stud
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight +Competitively priced +Waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-Size up small and narrow

 The Berghaus Hillwalker Trek is intended for lowland rambles and treks - generally getting out and enjoying the footpaths and byways nearest you - and does an admirable job at a keen price point. Lightweight and breathable thanks to plenty of fabric in the upper, and a Gore-Tex membrane too, this won’t weigh you down unnecessarily, but provides robust protection where it counts. 

Suede panels on the toe and heel and a high mid-foot rand should keep sharp stones and the like at bay, while a low ankle offers just enough support without getting too serious (or warm in the summer months). Finally the Opti-Stud sole unit is surprisingly aggressive, offering excellent grip on muddier descents, wet grass and general sponginess. In short, if you’re looking for a footpath mile-cruncher that won’t break the bank - or your feet - the Berghaus Hillwalker Trek is well worth a look. See how it matches up against another great traditional hiking boot range in our Berghaus Hillwalker Trek vs Hanwag Banks faceoff.

Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX hiking boot in orange and grey

14. Salomon Men's Quest 4D 3 GTX

Show the mountains who’s boss with these hiking boots for all terrains

Upper material: Nubuck leather, textile
Sole type: Contragrip TD
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+Rugged and durable+Enhanced stability+Supremely comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Some reviews report unreliable waterproofing

Winner of the T3 Awards 2019 for Best Hiking Boots, the waterproof Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX will see you over any mountain pass, powering you onwards in sheer comfort come rain or shine. They’re a backpackers dream too, supporting you under heavy pack loads, and are designed to fully cradle and support your foot and ankle with each step. Foot fatigue is reduced, which is a boon on longer, heftier walking days, and the EnergyCell EVA midsole helps to reduce shock impact. 

Though they’re fully robust, the Quest 4D 3 GTX aren’t as heavy as you’d think and are breathable enough to be worn during the warmer months whenever you need full support. The Contragrip sole with deep lug pattern dishes out mega traction on mixed terrain, boosting your confidence to tackle harder trails that may have previously felt out of reach. SensiFit tech provides a secure fit by cradling your foot from the midsole through to the Lace Locker lacing system, while a gusseted tongue stops debris and small stones from sneaking into your boots. They’ll have your back each step of the way.

Adidas Men's Terrex Free Hiker Parley hiking boot with sock-style ankle section

(Image credit: Adidas)

15. Adidas Men's Terrex Free Hiker

The best hiking boots for causal wanders, from city to trail

Upper material: Primeknit textile
Sole type: Continental Rubber
Waterproof technology: None
Reasons to buy
+Super comfortable fit +Style plus substance
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof-There are sturdier options

The Adidas Terrex have been a fixture in best hiking boot circles since they first launched, and are great for light-to-medium intensity hikes. The Primeknit upper has an elasticated sock-like fit that grips the foot and prevents friction blisters (you may want to size up for the best fit), and at 400g for men's and 340g for women's, these are very lightweight indeed. Stiffer EVA sections of the sole unit provide stability, while the bulk of the midsole is Adidas’ Boost material – found on some of the best running shoes – which delivers impressive energy return on each stride. Finally the outsole is mounded from grippy Continental rubber, with decent lugs to deal with muddier moments. For more technical or taxing trails, plus anything muddy (these aren't waterproof), look elsewhere in this list. But if you're after a stylish boot that's ready to wear right out of the box, the Adidas Terrex are a great choice.  

There are also some special edition alternatives to consider – for example, for the Free Hiker Parley, Adidas teamed up with Parley for the Oceans to take plastic pollution that is collected on shorelines and in coastal areas and recycle it into the upper elements of the boot.

Hanwag Banks Winter GTX tall hiking boots

(Image credit: Hanwag)

The best walking boots for keeping warm in the winter

Upper material: Nubuck Suede
Sole type: Vibram IceTrek
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+Very warm indeed+Tuned up ice grip+High ankle support
Reasons to avoid
-Too soft for hardcore treks

The Hanwag Banks Winter GTX boots are immediately recognisable as being based on the Hanwag Banks pattern, offering a robust and relatively traditional walking boot platform. That's no bad thing, the nubuck upper offering excellent durability but relatively low weight, and a traditional mountain boot sole that'll grip mud, rock and snow equally well. 

Hanwag has not been idle on the winter front though, adding in a variety of anti-cold technologies to keep your toes comfy. These include a higher-than usual ankle, trapping warmth and also increasing support, an insulated aluminium-layered footbed, and a Vibram Icetrek sole material that grips better in icy conditions. However, what you'll notice first is the inside of that raised ankle, resplendently lined with Gore-Tex Partelana. This gives a plush and snug fit to comfort the coldest feet, while still remaining breathable. Although too soft for hardcore mountain adventures, these Hanwags look and feel the part for low-level trekking and winter walking in serious comfort. (There's a women's version too: check out the Hanwag Banks Winter GTX Women's Boots here.) For more info, head to our Hanwag Banks Winter GTX boots review.

How to choose the best hiking boots

The two key things to prioritise when hunting for the best hiking boot for you: finding the right boot style for the activity, and getting a really good fit for your individual foot shape. The fit will vary by brand and style of boot, with some coming up much narrower (or broader) in the midfoot than others. It's absolutely vital to try boots on before embarking on an expedition, and usually wearing them round the house before removing the retail labels is enough to show up any hotspots that could lead to painful difficulties further down the line. Head to our guide to how to break in hiking boots for some top tips (and our guide to how to treat blisters if the worst comes to the worst).

Although there are some stunning and super-technical hiking boots that might catch your eye, make sure you actually need the features they're offering before you shell out. Super-stiff mountain boots can be a trial on casual Sundays strolls, but equally, rocking up in trainers for a snowy ascent is a terrible idea. Generally though, the extra support of a good hiking boot will see you happily meander wherever the fancy takes you.

The golden rule is to buy what fits, and a model that suits your main use. In terms of brands, at the more robust end of the spectrum La Sportiva, Scarpa, Mammut, Lowa and Aku all build boots that will shame a tank, while at the lighter, summery end Teva, Keen and Salomon bring considerable expertise to the table.

Hiking boot materials and technologies

Construction-wise, old-school full leather hiking boots are rare beasts these days, not only because of cost but also because they need months of breaking in before extended use. Modern boots use a range of synthetic materials in addition to leather panels, so are much softer out of the box. Indeed, the latest thermo-fitted/NestFit models are pretty much ready to rock straight off the shop floor, although wearing around the house or to and from work is still a good idea before leaving on a major expedition.

Outdoor tech has come a long way in recent years, with huge strides being made in the way the best hiking boots are designed and built, from tech geared to keeping your toes warm in sub-zero conditions, to innovations that help you stay upright on the most treacherous and slippery trails. Here are a few of the most popular hiking boot technologies, and what they do:

  • Vibram Megagrip (enhanced traction)
  • Gore-tex (improved waterproofing)
  • NestFit (bio-mapping for comfort)
  • Thermo Tech Application technology (better support)
  • CleanSport NXT (odour control)

Best hiking boots: features to look for

In a nutshell, you're looking for boots that are luxuriously comfortable, unstintingly waterproof, heroically breathable, tank-like in their ruggedness, and offer as much grip as Spider-Man's socks. It’s essential to get the right rating for your hiking boot – wearing B3 double-boots for summer trekking will be hell, as will attempting the likes of Indicator Wall in Converse. Overall, you’re looking for ankle support from a boot – which in the hills can be vital when a stone shifts underfoot – but also a comfortable fit.

A snug (not tight) fit minimises heel lift, as well as assorted blisters at ‘hot spots’ like heels and toes (although we'd always recommend a pair of the best hiking socks for an added layer of protection). When seeking out winter boots (B1+) this is particularly important, as a loose fit will see your toes smash into the toe box when using crampons, and the stiffer sole will also exaggerate heel lift unless the heel pocket fits just right.  

The accepted wisdom is to try on hiking boots in the afternoons, once your feet have expanded, and take a range of socks to try them on with. Thin office socks are helpful to show up any obvious shape mismatches and pressure points, before moving on to your preferred walking sock

Do experiment with sock fit as well as boot fit, as even the most expensive socks are cheap compared to boots, and some of the more specialised socks can make a real difference to your hiking comfort. 

Hiking boots come in different weights. Generally speaking, any weighing 400-500g and under are best suited to speed hiking, trail running (some types, not all) or day to day off-road use. Dog walkers and fairweather hikers, you'll like these ones.

Hiking boots that are tough enough to withstand multi-day hikes, where you might be carrying a heavy load on your back, are usually heavier. The trade-off for that extra weight is that these types of technical boots are much more supportive.

Do I need specific boots for hiking?

Hiking boots, as a term, is a broad church, but the main reasons you’ll need some for the rough stuff are their blend of protection, grip and stiffness. Standard street boots – Doctor Martens, for example – might offer some ankle support by lacing up high, but a lack of ankle padding will cut you to ribbons on a long trek. 

Most modern hiking boots include a waterproof membrane, which will be useful when you head off the beaten track. In addition, hiking and mountain boots often incorporate a raised 'rand', a rubber buffer over the leather of the boot nearest the sole, which protects the boot from sharp stone cuts when walking across scree. 

Hiking boot soles will also be much stiffer than street shoes/boots to shrug off rough surfaces, incorporating aggressive tread for better grip on wet grass, moss or mud, and often cleverly-placed sticky rubber areas for extra grip on wet rock. That stiffer sole gets a grade from B0 to B3-B0 and below, making them fine for casual summer hikes, but too flexible for crampons. Meanwhile, B1-3 boots offer increasing levels of stiffness to accommodate increasingly technical rigid crampon use. This might sound excessive for the causal walker, but if you’re hill walking in the UK winter, opting for a stiffer crampon-compatible walking boot is highly recommended, as conditions can change fast.

A lighter-weight alternative is a walking shoe. Check out our walking boots vs walking shoes explainer if you're deciding between the two.

Mark Mayne has been covering tech, gadgets and outdoor innovation for longer than he can remember. A keen climber, mountaineer and scuba diver, he is also a dedicated weather enthusiast and flapjack consumption expert.